Women will take the starring role in tonight's FIFA World Cup match between Costa Rica and Germany

london, england   july 31 fourth official stephanie frappart with her medal after the uefa womens euro england 2022 final match between england and germany at wembley stadium on july 31, 2022 in london, united kingdom photo by visionhausgetty images
Women set to make history at tonight's World CupVisionhaus - Getty Images
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For the first time in history, three women are set to referee during the men's FIFA World Cup in Qatar tonight - marking a bold step in the right direction when it comes to equality on the pitch.

Stéphanie Frappart, Neuza Back and Karen Diaz will take charge of the Group E match between Costa Rica and Germany. Frappart has already served as the fourth official (assisting the referee) in the Group C match between Mexico and Poland last week, but tonight she will make her debut as the main referee.

The 38-year-old Frenchwoman is no stranger to refereeing either, and is more than qualified for the job; she was head referee in the 2019 Women’s World Cup final for FIFA. She also made history as the first woman to referee a men’s World Cup qualifying match, a men’s Champions League match in 2020, and this year’s French Cup final match.

doha, qatar   november 24 cristiano ronaldo of portugal lines up alongside the fourth official stephanie frappart of france and the referee ismail elfath of usa  during the fifa world cup qatar 2022 group h match between portugal and ghana at stadium 974 on november 24, 2022 in doha, qatar photo by youssef loulidifantasistagetty images
Fantasista - Getty Images

Speaking to BBC Sport's Laura Scott, Frappart said it’s a huge deal for many reasons. “It’s a very good development for refereeing but also for women, also in Qatar, in football, but also in the normal life that women are taking more responsibility. It’s a good sign to see women referees at the men’s World Cup.”

And she won’t be alone. Assisting Frappart in the match are two other women refs – Neuza Back, from Brazil, and Karen Diaz Medina from Mexico.

Pierluigi Collina, chairman of the FIFA Referees Committee, emphasised they were chosen because of their talent and qualifications: “They were not selected because they are women, but as FIFA referees. They could officiate any game.”

A fourth female match official, Kathryn Nesbitt of the United States, will be working at the Al Bayt Stadium as the offside specialist in the video review team too.

Despite this positive move, the 2022 World Cup has been marred with controversy from the start and many football fans and supporters have made the decision to boycott the games this year, due to Qatar’s shocking poor human rights record and the fact that homosexuality is outlawed there (and punishable with jail time).

FIFA also recently threatened to punish teams if its players wore rainbow-printed One Love armbands to support LGBTQ rights in Qatar. Players who break the rules will get yellow cards during the tournament.

Qatari law also holds a profoundly patriarchal system which has resulted in many women not wanting to travel to Qatar for the World Cup. Sex outside of marriage is banned and Qatari women can only marry with the permission of a male guardian. This controversial system of male guardianship also shapes women’s ability to study, drive and travel. Domestic violence and rape is also not criminalised.

When is the FIFA World Cup final 2022?

The group stage of the 2022 World Cup ends on 2 December and 16 teams will advance to the knockout bracket. Four-time World Cup winner Germany is at the bottom of Group E and will need to beat Costa Rica tonight (1 December) to stand a chance at advancing to the round of 16.

The World Cup final will take place on 18 December.

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